Don’t call him a sprinter. Although Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) is better known for his turn of speed at the finish of tough road stages, he delivered a convincing time trial win in stage 6 of the Amgen Tour of California on Friday.
Starting second to last, Sagan scorched the 6.7-mile course in Santa Clarita, beating the stage’s early leader, Jos Van Emden (LottoNL-Jumbo) by 15 seconds.
“It’s better when it’s shorter, like 20kms and today was just 10, but the course was very straight, very powerful,” Sagan said. “It can be better if it’s some more turns and more technical, but still, I’m very happy for first place.”
The race had been originally slated to run in Big Bear Lake, at altitude, over a longer course, but inclement weather forced organizers to scramble a new venue at Six Flags Magic Mountain.
Though Toms Skujins (Hincapie Racing) made a valiant effort to hang onto his yellow jersey, it was not meant to be. He lost 46 seconds to Sagan on the day, falling to second in the overall, 28 seconds back. Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick-Step) is third, 45 seconds behind; he also finished third in the stage 6 TT.
Van Emden, a former Dutch time trial champion, set the fastest mark early on, riding 12:46.
The early leader admitted he was surprised to lead the time trial. “I didn’t expect to be there that long,” he said. “It wasn’t a perfect ride. … It’s a tough time trial.”
Among the GC riders, Sergio Henao (Sky) fired the first shot across the bow, riding 12:57.
Cannondale-Garmin’s Joe Dombrowski was not able to match Henao’s time and finished in 13:21 soon thereafter.
Another young American, however, delivered a time that stood second-best for awhile — Joey Rosskopf (BMC) was only five seconds shy of Van Emden when he crossed the line.
UnitedHealthcare’s Janez Brajkovic, also a GC rider to watch in tomorrow’s climbing stage, could only muster 13:41.
Fresh off a podium finish at Tour of Turkey, Tinkoff-Saxo’s Australian Jay McCarthy rode 12:58, a mere one second slower than Henao, the point of reference for GC contenders.
Lawson Craddock, Giant-Alpecin’s GC leader delivered a respectable 13:08.
The race’s only former champion, Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) had an impressive ride, stopping the clock at 12:58 and eventually finishing ninth on the day.
Then, the young French sensation, Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick-Step) rode a blistering time trial to bump Rosskopf out of second place with a time of 12:50.
But it wasn’t long before Sagan smashed Van Emden’s time with a 12:31, and that was also good enough for the stage winner to claim the yellow jersey. Although Skujins put in a solid ride, placing 34th with a time of 13:17, he ceded his GC lead to Sagan at the end of the day.
Though Sagan is a versatile rider, he’ll face a tough challenge to hold the overall lead in Saturday’s decisive stage 7, which culminates in a climb up Mount Baldy. Henao is 55 seconds behind, and is poised to fight for yellow.
Neal Rogers contributed to this report from Santa Clarita.